The Sixth Edition core set of Magic: The Gathering, also known as Classic, was released on April 27, 1999. It contains 350 cards, with reprints of cards from previous core sets, as well as some new reprints from expansion sets through the Weatherlight expansion.
The release of Sixth Edition also brought with it many rule changes:
- The "batch" system of spell resolution was replaced with the "stack" system in Sixth Edition. Previously, spells resolved in complicated batches, in which a player could only respond to the spells in the batch. Also, once a batch began to resolve, no more spells could be played until the entire batch of spells resolved. This was replaced with the stack system, in which spells could be added regardless of what was on it. Also, spells resolve one at a time in the stack, utilizing the "last spell first and first spell last".
- The new stack system removed the "timing" aspect of spells. Therefore, the interrupt spell type was removed as being redundant. All spells that were interrupts (generally counterspells) became instants.
- Before Sixth Edition, spells and abilities that produced mana were known as mana sources and couldn't be countered. In Sixth Edition, mana source spells (such as Dark Ritual) became instants, which could be countered just like other instants. (Mana source abilities, on the other hand, became "mana abilities"; these didn't use the stack and still could not be countered.)
- Triggered abilities were clarified. Under the old system, these confused many players who didn't know how (or when) to respond to them. With the "timing" aspect removed in Sixth Edition, it became clearer just when a player could play a spell to combat a triggered ability.
- The "damage-prevention step" was removed. Now, when a spell deals damage, it deals it immediately on resolution, rather than waiting for damage prevention. The difference lies in when a player can play damage prevention: Previously, a player would play it after the damage spell resolves. After the rule change, the player had to play it before the damage spell resolves.
- Artifacts also received a rule change. Before the change, an artifact "shut off" or stopped working while it was tapped, unless it was an artifact creature. After, an artifact remains active while tapped. This was to bring artifacts more in line with other cards. Some artifacts (like Howling Mine and Winter Orb (create)) retained the "shut off" aspect, which necessitated explicitly printing that they only worked while untapped.
- Combat was restructured as well. Each step of combat was clearly demarcated, and each step had opportunities for players to play spells. One change to combat also took place: Before the change, a blocking creature that was tapped didn't deal any damage, though it did receive it. After the change, blocking creatures always dealt damage, whether or not they were untapped. This made creatures that were able to deal damage while tapping much better.
- Combat damage from creatures was also put on the stack where spells & abilities would normally go. In this way, combat damage could be responded to before the damage is actually dealt. This allowed (among other things) creatures in combat to be sacrificed for effects and still deal damage as though they were still in play.
- Finally, one of the loss conditions was changed. Before the change, a player that lost all of his life didn't lose the game immediately; if he was able to raise his life to at least 1 before the end of the current phase, he lived. Under 6th Edition rules, a player loses the game as soon as a player has priority once their life total is zero or less. This brought that loss condition in line with the only other loss condition specified by the rules; a player being forced to draw a card when he has an empty library has always been an immediate loss.
6th Edition was the first base set to have its artist information centered on the card (a printing practice started in Exodus). It was also the first base set to have collectors' numbers (which also originated in Exodus). The rules text on basic lands was also replaced with just a mana symbol, as featured in the Portal starter sets of 1997 and 1998.
Perhaps the biggest cosmetic change to the base set, however, was the expansion symbol. 6th Edition was the first core set to have an expansion symbol, which was necessary to show the cards' rarities (another practice that originated in Exodus). The set's expansion symbol was the Roman numeral VI, or 6.
- Abyssal Hunter: A staple card in black decks of that time, Abyssal Hunter was capable of destroying many creatures, with the right boosts.
- Exile: A powerful, fast-acting card, Exile could gain life for its user and rid him of an attacker at the same time, with no drawbacks.
- Grinning Totem: An obscure artifact that could steal a card from an opponent's deck.